The discovery of the grave of King Richard III in a Leicester car park was a source of global fascination. But where did he actually perish in battle? A University of Huddersfield archaeologist might have pinpointed the place where England’s most controversial monarch was hacked to death, receiving the horrific injuries that were all too apparent when his skeleton was unearthed.
Dr Glenn Foard – one of the world’s leading battlefield archaeologists and part of the Arms and Armour Research Group – has already played a crucial role in the saga of the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard met his end in 1485, fighting for his crown against the usurper who became the first Tudor king.
A new book, Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered, co-authored by Dr Foard and the historian Anne Curry, they describe the background to the battle and the archaeological project to find out where it was actually fought.
For generations it was thought that the Battle of Bosworth – which changed the course of English history – took place at a site in Leicestershire called Ambion Hill. There is a battlefield heritage centre there.
However, historians began to cast doubt on the traditional location for the battle. In 2005 Dr Foard was called in by the Leicestershire County Council to settle the matter. It was to be a long and difficult project but in March 2009, a single 30mm lead ball was found. Many more finds followed and Bosworth would yield more round shots than archaeological surveys on any other late medieval European battlefield.
By analysing documentary evidence, reconstructing the historic terrain and undertaking systematic archaeological surveys using metal detectors, Dr Foard deduced that Bosworth was not fought on the heights of Ambion Hill but two miles away in low lying, ground, close to a Roman Road and beside a marsh known later as Fen Hole.
Richard III might have chosen this terrain because he was an enthusiast for artillery and on this flat ground it could be used to best effect. But Henry’s troops simply manoeuvred, behind the protection of the marsh, to attack the flank of Richard’s army and so avoid the heavy artillery fire.
Other finds included the clinching evidence of a silver-gilt badge in the shape of a boar, the emblem of the doomed king. It would almost certainly have been worn by one of the knights who rode with Richard to his death on his fateful last cavalry attack.
Bosworth 1485: A Battlefield Rediscovered is published by Oxbow and is now available.
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